Here’s looking at you, kid

Juliette Wills on how to avoid being overlooked by the neighbours.


Here’s looking at you, kid. Actually, we’d rather you didn’t. An all-too common problem with buying a house is stepping outside into the back garden and sighing, ‘It’s a bit overlooked, isn’t it?’ Of course, some people are just super fussy, and for them, ‘overlooked’ means someone from two miles away past the church and over the main road might be able to see into your bathroom window if they’ve got a telescope. For others, it’s not an overreaction and can completely put a buyer off.

If, as a buyer, you can see potential for improving a garden that is overlooked, you’re halfway there. As a seller, if you arm yourself with a few ideas as to how your buyer might improve things, then you might just clinch that sale. Shrugging and saying, ‘It’s never bothered me,’ just doesn’t cut the mustard. Obviously if you’re buying a modern house on a sprawling estate, where you can barely fit a sheet of paper between one property and another, there’s not a great deal you can do. You could, however, go for the ‘distraction method’ – more on that in another post. For now, here are some steps you can take if you’re thinking of selling an overlooked property, or if you’ve fallen in love with a house but aren’t quite sure about the garden.

You don’t need to barricade yourselves in seriously, you don’t. You don’t want a version of the Berlin wall in their garden, and your neighbours won’t either. If you’re overlooked head-on, rather than from a height, think about introducing a pergola. If you train a climber to grow over it – such as jasmine, clematis or wisteria – you’ll still have light coming through, and it’ll give great colour in summer. It’ll also look pretty for your neighbours, so it’s unlikely they’ll give you any bother over it. One with pull-down fabric sides will give you extra cover from winds as well as prying eyes.

If pergolas aren’t your thing, how about adding a little height to a fence (remember that two metres is the maximum height allowed in the UK unless you obtain planning permission to go higher) with a trellis running along the top, and those ever-useful climbers giving some privacy? Ivy grows like crazy so even without a trellis, you can add height and that all-important burst of colour to a fence.

If your garden is a bit bleak at ground level, consider raised planters at different levels housing tall plants such as pampas grass, alliums, palms or even sunflowers. Not only will they add privacy, their spectacular beauty will act as a great distraction from prying eyes.

A sleek, horizontal fence can be a nice way of obtaining privacy but also letting light through to your garden. It’s far less obtrusive than your classic feather board fencing, and although expensive, it’ll add value to your property if you decide to sell. Likewise a long trellis at waist-height can work wonders if you’re directly overlooked when seated; grow lavender in pots on one side and you’ll add depth and colour at the same time.

If you really need to get serious, plant some bamboo. Take heed, though: it grows at an insane rate and if you block light into your neighbour’s garden, it’s likely they’re going to demand you take it down. Check with them first to avoid any hassle later on. Bamboo is a grass and is currently not covered by high hedges legislation.

Pandas optional, of course.


Juliette Wills
Journalist. Broadcaster. Author.


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